AKTUALA – Aktuala

This Italian band are totally different to any other that I have heard. Instead of producing the melodic progressive rock for which their country-mates are reknowned, they have taken influences from Africa, India, and Arabian countries, and produced music with a trance-like quality. By using tambura, Arabic oboe, and ethnic percussion they have managed to make authentic sounding Eastern music. Their debut album came out in 1973, and consisted of six instrumental tracks. ‘When The Light Began’ is a relaxing piece, with snatches of birdsong and a gentle rhythm flowing through it. ‘Mammoth R.C.’, however, is something totally different, starting with a slow drumbeat, before free-form saxes explode in a squall of noise. ‘Altamira’ is mostly percussive, with little melody, but ‘Sarah’ngwega’ uses flute and oboe to produce a hypnotic Eastern sound. ‘Alef’s Dance’ is one of the most musical tracks on here, with rhythmic percussion, flute and viola all bringing to mind Arabian bazaars and camels. ‘Dejanira’ rounds things off with an almost jazzy piece played on oboe and tambura, with gentle acoustic guitar backing and restrained saxophone, bringing to a close this unusual and exotic album. Despite the band’s Latin roots, the music on this album could be considered to be closer to some German space-rock bands of the early 70’s, where the atmosphere created was sometimes just as important as the music. Obviously, this album will not be to most people’s tastes, but if you have fond memories of The Third Ear Band or latter-period Jade Warrior, or enjoy experimental music, then you could do worse than give it a try.